It’s a simple fact: our world is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and it is terrible for the environment. Not only does it spew harmful chemicals into the air, but it also takes a lot of effort to mine and ends up with lots of waste.
For this reason, we’re seeking cleaner energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear power. Among these, nuclear power has a lot of capability to produce large amounts of energy through a single source, while renewables like solar power can produce low amounts of energy without any cost.
So when it comes to solar vs nuclear power, which one is better? Let’s find out more about each type of power and compare their advantages to see which one’s better for the environment.
Comparing Solar vs Nuclear Power
As the name implies, solar power gathers energy from the sun and convert it into usable electricity by using technologies such as solar photovoltaics, solar heating, and artificial photosynthesis. This type of clean energy sounds great comes with a host of benefits. However, it also has its caveats.
Pros of Solar Power
While exploring fossil fuels, you must put manpower and money into locating, drilling, and mining the resources. As you can imagine, this is a huge drain on our finite resources. The biggest advantage of solar power is that it reduces your carbon footprint. By taking something that’s already being generated and harvesting it, you’re putting significantly less stress on the planet.
Solar power is also relatively easy and quick to set up. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there are nearly 12,000 major solar projects currently operating in the US with more than 160 GW of capacity. Solar power is also quite cost-effective when you’re talking about utility-scale projects. When compared to nuclear power, it only takes a fraction of investment to produce solar energy.
Cons of Solar Power
Despite being affordable for utility-scale projects, solar power can be quite expensive for residential purposes. This means that it can be out of the reach for many households to shift from conventional power grid sources to solar. However, residents do have the option to work with a reputable solar company to get the best rates possible.
Further, because the energy harvested depends on the sun being available, you won’t be able to generate energy 24/7, especially if the solar panels are placed somewhere with less than ideal weather. This also means that energy generation can be less dependable and stable. While you might get high output one year, you might get mediocre output another, for reasons out of your control.
Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power
Nuclear power is where you get energy through atomic reactions that generate heat. The three methods available are nuclear fission, nuclear decay, and nuclear fusion along with steam turbines to produce electricity. This powerful energy source comes with its own pros and cons.
Pros of Nuclear Power
Like with solar energy, you’ll be able to drastically reduce your carbon footprint by diverting your energy needs to nuclear power instead of fossil fuel. Nuclear power plants can basically function at full capacity all the time since all they need is fuel. In this case, it means you’ll get the maximum output of energy for the entire time they consume fuel.
Further, because you don’t need to depend on outside factors such as the amount of sunlight, you can count on nuclear power to be very reliable. No matter what time of day or year it is, you’ll get a steady output of nuclear energy.
Cons of Nuclear Power
One of the biggest drawbacks to nuclear energy is that it takes a long time to build a reactor. This means that if a fast-growing population has an ever-increasing demand for energy, nuclear might not be enough to keep up. For example, consider this: in the last 30 years, there has only been 1 nuclear power plant built to completion. There are 2 other ones under construction, but they’re already over budget and are nowhere near complete.
When compared to solar power, nuclear takes almost 8 times as long to build. Utility-scale solar projects take around 9 months to complete while nuclear projects take 69 months. Not only does nuclear power take longer to build, but it’s also much more expensive. In general, it costs almost 10 times more to build a nuclear power plant than to take on a utility-scale solar project.
Nuclear power is also more dangerous than solar power. While solar power harvests something that comes naturally from the sun, nuclear power plants must use some dangerous chemicals like plutonium.
If protocols aren’t closely followed, huge disasters can happen. And the waste that comes from a nuclear power plant disaster can take years to take care of, if not decades. Take, for example, the Chernobyl disaster. This disaster caused lots of deaths, had adverse health effects and has taken decades to even get control of.
Needless to say, much care has to be taken when you use nuclear power.
Solar vs Nuclear: Which One’s Better?
In general, when it comes to the solar vs nuclear power debate, solar’s the better option. Not only does it take less time to build, but it’s more scalable and applicable for widespread usage.
However, one thing’s clear: both solar and nuclear power are much better for the environment than fossil fuels. If we want to clean up and conserve our beautiful planet, then more efforts must be made to push us away from this dependence. Adopting cleaner energy methods will certainly be beneficial!